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Vinson & Elkins is another US firm that is reaping the benefits of the upturn in disputes.
Globally, Vinson’s litigation revenue held steady at 38 per cent of total turnover in 2008, the same proportion as in 2007, when the practice generated $202m (£121.02m). In 2008, however, the corresponding figure was $224.4m following an increase in Vinson’s total turnover to $590.5m.
Vinson London litigation partner James Lloyd Loftis says utilisation in the London litigation team is running at 2,000 hours-plus.
“We don’t have any formal billable hours targets, but we’re running hot,” confirms Loftis.
Loftis says he is surprised by the current mix of work in the team, particularly by the plenitude of High Court work in which Vinson is involved.
“I thought it would be 100 per cent international arbitration, but in fact it’s been closer to 70-80 per cent,” adds Loftis. “There’s just been lots more High Court work than I’d have thought. We’re not trying to be a destination for that kind of work, but that’s the way it’s worked out.”
Vinson reorganised its internal management structure last year, leaving Loftis sitting on top of a worldwide litigation group. Two of the firm’s global practice group heads are now in London, with others in Hong Kong and New York.
The London litigation team has six full-time fee-earners, but is looking to grow. Indeed, it is set to receive two more associates, who will arrive from its training programme soon.
“It’s unusual in that the ratio of trainees to qualified lawyers is so high for a US firm in London,” says Loftis. “We have eight trainees to 40 fee-earners. It’s hefty.”